Meet Chaya

We caught up with Chaya Maya, Development Chef at the test kitchen, to chat about her best cooking tips, the joy of juicy mangoes, and why everything’s better with chilli.

Meet Chaya

Looking back on recipes from years ago, they’re all so obviously, BC: before Chaya. So many of our recipes now shine with her sunny, Mauritian roots. She energises our food, developing recipes bursting with brightness. 

Her love affair with food began in the lush backdrop of her Mauritian childhood, where she would pick and eat juicy mangoes strewn across her garden. Fast forward a few years and she started with us as a chef de partie at Spitalfields. Now, she manages our column for The Guardian, while also developing recipes for our website and delis. 

Beyond the kitchen, Chaya supports Freedom From Torture, helping asylum seekers and refugees in the UK to rebuild their lives. With her colleagues, she's raised over £28,000 and counting for the charity. Chaya's dedication to food and community shines through in all she does. 

Quick fire Q&A

Hi Chaya. What’s your desert island dish? 

“Hmm. Probably dumplings. Of any kind. All dumplings!”

What about your favourite cooking utensil?

“It has to be a cast iron skillet. It’s high-sided enough for frying chicken and chips and gets hot enough to sear meat and make flatbreads. Everyone needs a cast iron skillet.”

And three ingredients you couldn’t live without? 

“Chillies always make it into my cooking. But also tamarind. In Mauritius, we add it to soups and stews at the end of cooking. We use it in marinades to tenderise meat. We even cook it down with a bit of sugar and chilli, then drizzle it over fried foods or desserts.” 

Favourite thing to do when you’re not at work? 

“Probably lose myself in a good book.” 

Which Ottolenghi dish have you cooked more than any other?

“Noor’s chickpea fatteh that’s published in the New York Times. It makes use of stale bread and can be served at brunch (with eggs) or as a vegetarian main course with seasonal veg. It’s fabulous.”

Finish the sentence: ‘There are few things which cannot be improved by the addition of…’

“Ghee, butter, anchovies, cheese. In that order.”